Brandon Bostick former NFL player turned mental health advocate
Hi. Welcome back to the mindful space Today we have Brandon Bostic. Did I say that right? You did. Okay, perfect. I have to ask every guest because it’s kind of confusing. All right, so let’s start from the beginning. Tell us a little bit about yourself and professionally and personally. Okay, so my name is Brandon Bostick. Um, I’m 30. I’m 33. I’ll be 34 in May. My birthday is May 30, so I’m 33. I’ll be 34. Played five years in the NFL. So I went to new grade college, so I went to college for four years. So I played five years in NFL. I graduated from there recently during COVID actually. So that’s part of my story. I graduated during COVID so went back to school during COVID so I graduated. So I got what you graduated with sports management. Nice. Of course. Makes sense. So I went to school for that. Played five reason NFL, and I’m a business owner, so I own Sage League Healing, which is a mental health practice in Denver, Colorado. So that’s kind of my story. Perfect. Well, going back to playing the NFL, how did you get there? When did you get drafted? How did it all begin for you? I wasn’t let’s cut that part then. No, you’re good. You could have let that roll. Rephrase that question. Really? Yeah, I would have rolled with it. Don’t worry about it. That’s all we have him. You felt bad saying, okay. Yeah, I don’t want to say something that you’re not. Okay. That’s kind of like the thing everyone thinks everyone gets drafted to sports, but everyone doesn’t get drafted. Okay. So it’s kind of, like, pretty cool if you go undrafted. Okay. He wasn’t chosen, but you made it interesting. Okay, so I’ll say it again, but I do want you to explain that, though. Just put it in your answer, because that was pretty cool. So going back to the beginning, the NFL, how did you get into it? I was undrafted, which means I wasn’t selected. No teams were looking to pick me up on their team, so I had to go try out. So I was undrafted. So I had a trial in Green Bay. I went there, had a trial, and I just made the team. So I was undrafted. I played four years at Newbury, so I went to college four years, had a pro day. Pro day is where all these teams come, and you just show them how fast you are. You show them how strong you are. You just show them your skills. So I did that. The draft came. I didn’t get drafted, so I wasn’t chosen. So then Green Bay Packers called me for a tryout, so I had to go there, try out. It’s three day mini camp. So you had, like, a three day trial. So I was there Friday, Saturday, Sunday. And you just practice and just show them how good you are. Just showing off a little, showing off a little, but I didn’t get signed there, so I went home. I got sent back home. So I went back home for a month, kept training, kept working out, kept chasing the dream. Then they called me and they said they wanted to sign me. So that’s when I started to I guess that’s when my dream came true. Yeah. What was that? That was like, June, I want to say 2012. Okay. That was almost ten years now, so it’s been a while. My God. And that was your ultimate goal at that point? That’s what you were going for. That was your one thing. Yeah, that’s what I wanted to do since I was five. Since I was five. It’s funny we’re talking about this. I asked my parents because I can’t remember how long I was playing football. So, like, mom, how long I’ve been playing football? She’s like, You’ve been playing football since you’re five? I’m like damn. That’s all I ever know. That’s all I ever did. Play football. Sports, non race football. I play football, basketball, and baseball. So sports is just my life. Did anybody else in your family play football at all? Yeah, my brothers, my dad’s, my cousins. Everyone played football. Sports was the way out back in South Carolina, so that’s what everyone did. I just got good at it. I just kept achieving at it, kept selling at it. Then I got big and I got some size, and I just kind of took off with it. Now, how was your mental health while you were in the NFL? Looking back on it? Looking back on it? Yeah. Well, I would say up until 2015, when the traumatic event happened, I didn’t know what mental health was. I didn’t even think about mental health. I never even heard of that word, so I never even knew what it was. I was just so focused on football and just trying to get my mental to a place where I could compete with NFL guys. So that’s where my mental was. I was so focused on this warrior mentality. Just get better every day. You don’t feel pain. You have to have this gladiator mindset to play. So that’s what my mentality was. I didn’t really think about mental health. I didn’t know what it was until of course something bad happened to me. Yeah, isn’t that usually the case? That always seems like the case. You have to learn the hard way, or you exactly just go through it and you figure out what things is. Looking back on it, though, do you recognize some warning signs that maybe you missed? So many warning signs. Now that I’m out of it, of course I see all the signs. You’re like, how’s bad? I was deep in there, but definitely I could see the warning signs. I could feel them for sure. But when you’re in it, when you’re not aware, you don’t know what it is. You don’t know your diagnosis. You’re kind of just feeling it and you think it’s not normal, but it’s your norm, I guess. I guess you can say yeah, or you feel know, I’m not the only one. It’s normal. People are feeling it. It could be a sign of weakness if you talk about it. Yeah, for sure. Right. Especially in the NFL, I can see how even just being a just exactly that’s even kind of the thing doesn’t necessarily have to be NFL. Maybe the masculinity. Correct. As an NFL player, did you ever get paid or did you ever get support in the mental health field? When I was playing, I was offer support, but I’m tough, I’m 25, 26 year old, I’m good, I can just fight through it. It’s okay. I got all these things, I got money, I got fame, life is good, I’m achieving my dreams. So mental health wasn’t really a thing, but the support was definitely there. Now that I’m done, the support is definitely needed. So I got these benefits. You get mental health benefits, you get all the therapy sessions and everything you need for your mental health. So now that I’m done, I definitely use their resources a lot more. But when I was playing, I wasn’t focused. I was more focused on football, money and fame, that’s all. Playing the game. Playing the game and living the life. Okay. But it is offered. It is offered. Teammates for sure something. Okay, so that’s good. I was going to say when I was playing, it wasn’t like a known thing, like the therapists and all these different modalities. It wasn’t talked about as much. That is now. I think it’s definitely more talked about. People are more comfortable taking the resources and talking about the mental health and doing podcasts. So it’s definitely more talked about now. Yeah, I feel like there’s definitely been an improvement. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. In your experience or in your opinion, do you believe or do you think NFL players have more mental health issues than maybe in other careers? I do. I think it goes football is a collision sport and it’s a mental like you’re always smashing your head. So I think that’s what makes a difference. You have that head trauma and, you know, head trauma causes so many different things. So I think that’s why football players have more mental health. Another, because it’s a contact sport, it’s a very violent sport, and the hits and the concussions, all that stuff add up. So I think that’s why football players have more injuries and more concussions and more mental health. I would agree. And then even going back to, like you said, the masculinity, the tough game. Yeah. And how you’re raised naturally, you’re just trying to like for you, for example, it was your way out, right? Whatever it took. Yeah, whatever it took. Yeah, that was the mentality. Exactly. When did you notice your mental health declining and why? I would say 2015, playing an NFC Championship game, that’s when I started to notice that I was having all these different feelings and emotions. That wasn’t what I was. It wasn’t normal. It wasn’t healthy. Yeah. It wasn’t what I was used to. So I started to feel like I wasn’t happy all the time, or I was just depressed all the time and just not motivated. I didn’t really love football like I used to. So just going through those things, that’s when I started to realize, like, brandon, you’re not the five year old. You don’t really love football like you used to. You weren’t finding the passion. Yeah. And I wasn’t working out as much I didn’t really take football really serious as I did before. So that’s when I started to realize that mental health wasn’t in a healthy place. Yeah. Now I know there was this one traumatic event or this one event that happened that kind of triggered a lot of things. Do you mind telling that story? Oh, yeah, for sure. So it was 2014 season, so I was on the packers, screaming, packers, 2014 season. We’re having a good season. We make it to the playoffs, who beat the Cowboys. Then the last game before the Super Bowl, which is the NFC Championship, so we’re playing the Seattle Seahawks. So the score is 1914 with two minutes left. Two minutes and 14 seconds. I’ll never forget this moment. Feel like I know all the details. I know all the details of it, obviously, because I work on it. I go through therapy, so I can easily talk about it. But, yeah. So it’s two minutes and 14 seconds left, and we’re lined up on site kick and onside kick. We’re receiving the ball, and the team is kicking, so they’re trying to get the ball back from us. All we need to do is catch the ball and we win the game and we go on to the Super Bowl. So I’m on the front line, they kick me the ball, and I jump up for the ball, which that wasn’t my job. I was supposed to block so my friend can catch the ball, so I was supposed to block. My friend just supposed to come catch it. But in the middle of the play, the ball is kicked in the air, and my instinct is to go get the ball, because that’s all I ever done, football. Catching the ball is just natural, so that my instincts kicked in when they got the ball, I’m like, oh, shit. That’s not where you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to block. So I didn’t catch it. So I was kind of in between catching it and blocking. So I didn’t do nothing. I dropped the ball, the other team got the ball. Then I just black out. Like I don’t remember. Really? I don’t remember. Obviously, I know now because I’ve watched it and going, through it, but from that moment to the sideline, I don’t remember what happened. So I just get to the sideline, I just sit there. I just remember like, the stadium is going crazy. My teammates are screaming at my coaches, yelling at me. I’m like, whoa. Yeah. What did I just do? My life just went from reaching my dream to like, this could be over for me. That was a big mistake. You cost your team a chance to the Super Bowl. So I went through that, just kind of blacked out and just all these different emotions, all these different feelings. So I went through that. Then I had to do an interview in a locker room that kind of just really oh, my God. That really just, I guess, started my mental health because I was just so overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions, and they asked me about something that just happened, and it was just so even remember. I don’t even remember. I blacked out. I’m in shock. I was so much going on myself. I went through that and that kind of started my mental health journey. And things just went down from there. Yeah, I know. You got a lot of backlash from your fans, even. Yeah, from my fans. They were did you? Yeah, I did. Okay. But I thought that was normal. I thought it was normal for people to criticize you as a professional athlete, but not in a racist way or a way that it degrades a person to a point of mental health issues. So that was the first time me experiencing that, like, people calling me the N word or just getting deaf threats in my email or just over a football game. So it was very overwhelming for me to deal with that. And then I was already dealing with it for myself. I was already beating myself up about it. Mentally. I was just doubting myself. I didn’t think I could catch I just didn’t think good thoughts about myself. So it’s all these unhealthy thoughts. And then I was getting it from the outside world, and then I got released from my team, so I was just, like, just in a bad spot. It’s like a domino effect. Domino effect. Like everything just overwhelming. Everything just piled on me at once. Yeah. So at that point, that’s when you were really at your lowest. Yeah, but I still was trying to play football. I still had a career. Okay. And at that point, I always include this point, because in NFL, you need three and a half years to get your pension, like your benefits, like your 401, all those things. So if you don’t make it to three and a half years, you don’t get those. At this point, I was at two years, so I’m like, damn, my career could be over, but I need another year so I can get that. So I was depressed and that just happened. I’m like, damn. But I need another year. So I had to kind of rebuild myself up mentally to go play football, even though I didn’t want to play football to get that year so I could have my minute finish. So I always tell that part because that’s the only reason I kept playing football. Okay. Just so I could get my yeah. If not, what are you playing football for? I just wasted. It not wasted, but I just didn’t achieve the benefits that everybody wants. That’s what you played for, and that’s what you set yourself up for, your family. So that was the reason why I just kept playing and pushed myself to keep playing. Okay. And at that point, did you prioritize your mental health at all or did you cite it for another year so you could focus on the playing? Well, that’s interesting. There’s some events that happen in between there. So after I dropped the ball, after event happened, the season was over. So the season is over at the end of the year. Every year, every team has exit meetings. You meet the coach and you kind of get your end of the year progress report. You tell them how you feel, like, how you did throughout the game. So I did that with my coach, and I was telling him, I was asking I asked him man to man, I said, am I going to be here next year? Tell me truth, man to man, like, am I going to be on the team? He’s like, yeah, you’re going to be here next year. You’re good. So I’m like, okay. Kind of felt good about myself. I had a good year. He said I was going to be in the plans. I was starting to move up the death chart. I was starting to get more playing time. So I’m like, okay, I messed up that play. But I just talked to the coach, said that I’m going to be here next year. So I’m like, okay, I got that. We’re going to be good. So I went home off season. I was still partying. That’s what I did. So I just party as soon as just drink, drink, party, just whatever that was I was doing for coping. That’s all I knew. I didn’t know therapy. I didn’t know mental health. You probably didn’t even know you were using it as a coping. I didn’t at all. I just thought it was fun and I felt good, so I did that. And then I got a call I’ll never forget. I was in Houston. I was partying. I had to fight. The next day, I got a call from Green Bay. I’m like, who the hell is calling me from Green Bay? I’m like, this isn’t good. And it was the team, come speak to Brandon. Yeah, this is him. They’re like, okay, we’re going to release you. We don’t pretty much means you’re cut like you lost your job. I’m like, holy shit. I’m hungover in bed. I just lost my job. I just talked to the coach. Coach said I was good, but I wasn’t good, so I got cut and I got released. So after that, I had to fly to Green Bay, and I just moved. So that’s when I started to go down south. I got cut. Then I went to the Minnesota Vikings. So I got signed by the Vikings, went there, partying, just not really loving football. I was coming to Miami, like, every weekend. Don’t blame Miami. I was coping with Miami. This is crazy. I was coming to Miami every weekend, so I would just work out during the week and then party in Miami weekend. I had, like, a girlfriend in Miami. Miami was just it was love. That’s where my peace and happiness was. I was going to Key West. I was doing all these different things, but still not focused on football. So I went to the Minnesota Vikings. Got released there. Then I went to Arizona Cardinals, and this is where I was living at the time. So I lived in Arizona since 2012, and that’s where I live now. So I go back home. I’m playing in my hometown team, so that was even worse for me, really. So I’m hometown? Of course. I’m just all my friends there, so I’m going, okay, even more party and just more craziness. I’m like, man, still not focusing on football. So then I get cut from there. Then I go to New York, and this is probably, like, my last chance. Coach is like, you’re starting to get old. You’re just bouncing around teams. The word is starting to get out, like, you’re not really focused on football. So I get signed by the jets. So I make the jets that year. Then I make it 2016. So I was just partying the whole time from 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. Then I got my diagnosis. That’s when I started changing my life around. So my coping mechanism was just partying, doing whatever I could to make myself feel good. So that was to numb yourself. That’s what I did for five years. Nowadays you’re clean? You’re sober. Yeah, I don’t drink to heal. Drinking isn’t my coping mechanism. Still drinker? Yeah, I’m a social drinker. It’s not a coping mechanism, but I think it has to do a lot when people it’s a relationship. You have more than the substance itself. So if you’re able to heal your relationship with whatever it is for some, then you can have a balance, not for others. So I got that balance. I’m doing more things to help myself, healthy ways. Like I said, I do therapy. I have my therapist. I do yoga. I meditate. So I do more healthy things than drinking. So drinking is more of a social activity now. Got it. Now it might just be like a scotch. Yeah, tequila. Tequila nice. Good margarita. Good margarita. Spicy margarita. Nice. All right, great. I kept playing. I was depressed. I had all these mental health issues unknowingly. I didn’t know I was just going through it. So I was partying, drinking, doing drugs, doing everything I could to make myself feel good in unhealthy way, of course. So I’m doing all these things, and finally it caught up to me. I got drug tested. So I got drug tested and I fucking failed a drug test. The last game of the season. So I got suspended for four games. I was partying and drinking in New York. This is I was on the jet. So this is 2016. The event happened 2015. So 2015, I just partied, drank and just did all these unhealthy things, but still trying to play football. And then I got signed to the jets, and then I played 15 and 16. So I played two more years after that traumatic event. So the last game of my last game I ever played, I fell to drug chest. So I suspended for four games. So that’s when I started to notice my mental health. Mike okay, this is just getting crazy. Yeah. So that’s when I went to the treatment facility. So I did. Damn. What did I do? Did they make you go to treatment facility, or was this your choice? This was my choice. This is my choice and my agent’s choice. Like, let’s go there. Get yourself in the right mindset so we can play football and continue your career. So damn. I want to say I did eight weeks there in 2016. So I did eight weeks to go get my mind right, see what’s wrong with me. But I didn’t get diagnosed. I was just there. You didn’t that was my next question. Yeah, I didn’t get diagnosed. Were they just treating the substance substance abuse thing? Treating substance abuse and just trying to get me back in the league? That’s what I want to do. So I went through that for eight weeks and then just didn’t get back in the league. My career ended now. So at this point, you are out of the treatment facility. You’re still playing football, still trying to play. Okay. At what point did you get diagnosed? That was 2016. I didn’t get diagnosed till 2020. COVID so 1617, 1819. Just living miserably in a dark place. Like, living I thought I was thought I was in a dark place, so I was just living. Like I said, I didn’t have my degree at the time, so I didn’t have a college degree. All I had was a five year career. So I had my career. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t know what was next for me, the traumatic event happened, so I was just in a bad place. I didn’t know what was next, so I just did whatever I wanted. You were doing the best you knew how to do, but then COVID hit and then there was no distractions, and you really had to confront everything. So that was the light for me. So COVID was kind of bad. I guess it was bad, but it was like a blessing for me. That’s when I got diagnosed, and that’s when I figured out, like, social anxiety, major depressive, where I started to get my diagnosis. I’m like, okay, the diagnosis gave me confirmation of what I was feeling, so I know, like, okay, this is what I feel. This is yeah, I got a name for it. That kind of just opened my eyes to know just how I can heal it and how I can, because I knew I was going to deal with this for the rest of my life. I’m like, I might as well just learn about it exactly. And get used to it and just make friends with it. So that’s kind of what I did. Yeah. I always say that it’s like going to the doctor. Somebody tells you you have bronchitis or whatever, you treat it. And once you know that something is happening in regards to your mental health, then it’s almost unavoidable to just go and treat it. Right. You feel like, okay, we’ll have to do something about it. But sometimes that journey to discover the diagnosis can be so long. Like, for you, it was years before it was cut off to that happened 2015. I didn’t get diagnosed until 2020. So that’s five years of just unknowing just going through it. Now, you got diagnosed, you did the treatment facility. You went through all that in your official diagnosis, correct me if I’m wrong, is depression and anxiety. Severe social anxiety and major depressive disorder. Wow. Severe social anxiety while playing I think that came from more of the social media, the questioning the questioning media. Yeah. Just not wanting to be like everywhere I went, everyone was like, oh, you’re that guy. You’re Brandon boss. So that kind of gave me some anxiety about myself and just wanting to be me or just not wanting to go places. So I think that’s where the most of the anxiety comes from. How do you deal nowadays with your depression and social anxiety? Ask myself that all the time. People are going to keep talking. I’m sure they still identify you with that mistake because people are mean. But how do you deal with it now? Therapy. I go talk to my therapist, and like you said, I know I can’t control what other people say about me, so I have to control how I feel and how I think about myself. So I try to work on those things. I can’t control people tweeting or just saying anything. So I try to control myself, control the things I can control, and just know that that mistake doesn’t define me as a person. Exactly. And people make mistakes all the time, but mine just happened to know broadcast it. You just happened to be in the NFL. I just happened to be in the NFL. It happened to be so I started to learn those things and just know, like, I don’t know, just don’t take things too serious. Don’t take it personal. Don’t take it personal. I know people are dealing with their own stuff, so I know people for sure. So I take all those things into account. But some days it gets to me and some days it don’t. But I know that, like you said, that I know, like I said, that mistake doesn’t define me as a person anymore. Now, you started you have a new mental health facility. Now you’re talking about mental health like an advocate for it. What kind of feedback have you received from so much people? Positive light in it. It’s so much positive and so much light, and it’s healing for me to know that what I do in the modalities and my journey. And just talking about it helps other people because it helps me too. It helps me process it and know that other people are feeling the same way I’m feeling some days. So it’s all connected for me. If I make someone else feel better, it makes me feel better. And I just know just from being around people, serving people is the way to make yourself feel better or just the way out. Because I know sometimes when I’m in my depressive modes, I’m like, what can I do to make myself feel better? And it’s usually doing things for other people is the way that usually makes me feel good about myself. Yes. And that’s why you’re getting into field more and more, right. Did you get good feedback from your teammates? Maybe now that they realize what you were going through all those years. It’s funny, I don’t really have many teammates. I have, like, a couple of teams mate that I play with that I still talk to, but football is a weird brotherhood. Like, you play with these people, but you’re not really connected. Like, you’re connected while you’re playing. Yeah, but when you’re done, you go your separate ways and you just live a different life. I’m a single man. Most people have families, and so there’s just so many different things. So you don’t really connect with the people you really play with. But I have a couple of friends that I’m still friends with and just starting a business, helping other athletes who went through the transition. So that’s kind of what I do now, my purpose. And that kind of gives me that fills my cup. Exactly. Wow. And I wish you the best of luck with the mental health facility. For sure. Yeah. I think it’s a great thing to start and do and continue now as you continue this journey, because it’s not like you mentioned, it’s not one thing that you’re done working on it. I got diagnosed first thing I asked my therapist. I’m like, when. Is because in football, you can work out, you can achieve your goal. Like, if I don’t lose ten pounds, I’m like, okay, I could achieve that goal and then I lost. But I’m like, with mental health, it doesn’t really how long am I going to deal with this? When is it going to end? Is it going to get to a point where it’s going to be over? He’s like, no, it doesn’t work. This is lifelong. This is something you have to get to know and just it just becomes more manageable. Yeah, that’s what I’ve learned before I went into mindset, like, okay, I got this. I’m going to work on it, work on it, work on it, and then I’m going to heal it like a spray ankle. I’m a heal it, I’m a rehab, and I’m going to be done with it. But it’s like, no, this is just whenever it comes and it goes whenever it wants. Yeah, especially depression. It comes in waves too. Yeah. And cycles. So I learned my cycle. I know how many days it’s going to come. I’m like a female. It’s like having your period. It’s been 30 days. And not socialize, because I will take a personal I know my psyche. Why are you breathing so hard? Stop breathing. That’s funny. Now, what is your ultimate goal going through this journey? I’m still trying to find that. Still trying to find my ultimate goal. Because, like I said, I’ve been playing football since I was five, and that’s what I always wanted to do. And I reached I’m like, Damn, I didn’t think I’m going to reach the NFL, then I’m going to do this. No one ever thinks like that. I was going to say no backup plan. You kind of have to go for it. If you’re going to go for it, you have to be 100% in or you just won’t make it. So that was my goal, but now I think I’m still searching. Obviously I want a family. I know that. So start a family, raise kids. I think that’s next for me and my business. Grow my business, start to help more people, start to tell my story more, just start to do more for mental health, for that kind of thing. So start a family and just grow my business and just help people heal. I think that’s a great start. I think you’re doing great and I think you’re in the right path for you. And if you’re helping people along the way, then I know that’s why I do my job, for sure. It’s definitely fulfilling. Yeah. For those that might be struggling through depression, or for those that might be that are an athlete or struggling, and for anyone that can relate to your story, what would be your advice? I’ll say just be vulnerable and get support. Get the help that you need. I think when I did that, that’s when my life changed, because I said I was going through it, and I was still performing at a high level, still in NFL. So I’m like, if I got the support I need and the help I needed and talked about what I was going through at that time, I could have maybe played a little longer. My career would have been different, my life would have been different. Maybe I wouldn’t have just so many what else? I don’t like to live in that world, but things could have been different. So just be vulnerable about what you’re going through and just get help if you need it. For sure. Yeah, I think obviously it sounds easier than done, but it’s important to talk to, even if it’s a family member. You don’t have to go directly to therapist. Just talk to have a good support system and communicate and be vulnerable. For sure. Well, I love this conversation. I could keep talking for hours, but I think we’re good. Thank you for having me. Thank you for coming. For sure. Thank you guys for watching. If you like what you saw, please leave us a comment. Don’t forget to subscribe. We’ll see you next weekend.